Chile: Fruit fly detected in Santiago

According to Professor Roberto Gonzales, an expert from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the University of Chile who has extensive experience in pest control, research, and publications, the species detected in the commune of Ñuñoa was the Ceratitis capitata, more commonly known as the Mediterranean fruit fly. 

On November 6, the Livestock Service (SAG) announced that a new focus of Ceratitis capitata had been detected in the Ñuñoa district of Santiago. The Mediterranean fruit fly is one of the nearly 100 species that make up the fruit fly family around the world.

"This serious quarantine pest has been detected bout 40 times in various regions of the country since it was first discovered in Chile in 1963, when it appears to have entered the country from Peru. It's the third time that it has been detected in Santiago since its first entry into Chile. The first time it was detected in Santiago was in 1966, then in 2005-2006, and now this year," said Professor Gonzalez.

Control measures, such as monitoring, mandatory treatment, destruction of fruit, etc., will be taking place in all the sectors involved in a 7.2 km radius from the focus of Ñuñoa and up to a 27.2 km radius for fruits being exported to the Asian markets, particularly to China.

The big problem for Chile after detecting the Medfly is mainly its exports. By international regulations, the SAG must give notice of the find and take action according to what each target market of the fruits dictates. In that sense, specialist Roberto Gonzalez notes that the biggest damage is related to a kind of paralysis of exports, which will affect the country's economy and image.

Additionally, producers will have to pay for the costly treatments that involve fumigations with Methyl Bromide to cold treatment techniques, among other things. 

A few months ago, between February and May this year, the fly was detected in the Serena. The larval attack focused on stonefruit and producers had to bury their plum production in numerous gullies located south of the capital of the Coquimbo Region.

A pest of quarantine importance
All the countries that are free of the fruit fly, which are currently important markets for Chilean fruit export, demand that all fruits must be fumigated upon the detection of the insect. Quarantine is a global procedure required by the various countries to control these pests from entering their territories. 

They require all the fruit that comes out of a certain perimeter be treated as they decide, which can be via cold treatments (below 5-6 degrees) or through fumigation. The cold treatment is becoming the treatment used the most because it avoids affecting workers and consumers. The cold kills the larvae and adults and, the lower the temperature, the more effective it is; however, it is very costly and risky as it can cause damages to the fruit.

The fruit fly
About 90% of the pests that affect the fruit sector in Chile are exotic and originated from different continents. The fruit fly is mainly transferred through the foods that people travelling bring into the country, which inadvertently carry the eggs of these insects.

The flies deposit up to 200 of their eggs in the fruit, which develop into larvae and then transform into the fly within a 20 day period. 

The fly lives in tropical and warm areas, thus it has only been detected as far south as Talca. During winter the fly disappears. Chile is not a tropical country where the fly can easily live so, when detected, the fruit fly has always had low populations. However, the detection of even one fruit fly means there is a focus. 

The fruit fly doesn't directly affect human health; its damage is directly related to the decomposition of fruit because it uses it to lay its eggs. 

Source: Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of the University of Chile

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